A SPACE FOR US exists to say ‘Don’t push us out’ ( a post it note from a 2012 consultation) and to prioritise local voice in the development of the area of Somers Town.
We ask you to respectfully consult this group and the Somers Town neighbourhood Forum, of which we are part, in any projects in the public realm, and to collaborate with us and not subsume us.
Too much has been taken away and too much has been imposed on this area for us not to do this.
Our conditions for filming and work are below.
Enclosed by roads and traffic, Somers Town is an enclave, hidden away but also increasingly exposed through its demolitions. It is ever more occupied at the edges by large developments and is cut through as a route from station to station, the place itself remaining a transit zone. Abandoned and crowded (out) at once, the air is bad here, metaphorically and actually. There is a longer history of a demand for ‘sweet air’ (Somers Town Chartist rhymer John Arnott) – the soot from the stations, the overcrowded pestilent homes – that made the town subject of a pioneers and social reformers: Somers Town is a grand theft’ rebuilding a ‘new Jerusalem’ to improve desperate working class conditions. These conditions were the impetus behind slum clearances where ideals of healthy living and space – and artwork for the working class – were put into place 100 years ago.
Somers Town was always a place of social justice. What is at risk is we see the dismantling of such efforts.
What legacy remains?
Created then, and replicated in the LCC architecture, is a sense of spaces for congregation, the courtyards, places to exist in communal open air, sharing air: built around drying posts to dry outdoors. The courtyards and posts, elements of a garden city, were repurposed for play and for open air street parties. These were safe enclosed space for children and adults, where community flourished. Use of space has changed over time.
In 2023 the ideals of the social housing movement have long been under threat: since multiple dismantlings of parts of the welfare state; amid rampant development and the sell off for private housing of public open space. The costs of this are known, for example an Increase in asthma and COPD and men dying ten years before their time than in other wealthier areas, statistics linked to ethnicity and social class. Yet the council puts a tower block on the park – a sign of the pressures on space and the existence of central London housing as speculative investment vehicle.
Demolitions of locally listed buildings take place; over 100 pieces of stolen art barely pass notice; we ask those interested in the area to play a part in helping to maintain in an area of London its character and heritage of social reform.
Filming and working with local resident groups
Somers Town has not benefitted from the encroachment of development.
We are a community organisation who originated out of a desire to comment on and record changes happening, and preserve the heritage: a response to the wholesale dismantling of this area.
Our response was to set up a space: a local resident community-led museum about Somers Town, called A Space for Us, in which we can record, preserve and at least can ‘own’ the narrative. Its purpose is to benefit the area.
Recording Somers Town is part of our museum purpose: we made 3 films over ten years, documenting the people and movements in this area, campaigning to save stolen working class art.
We are also finding many institutions expect the “community” to work/ give time /space for free.
Many projects can be extractive, even if these are student projects with no agenda. It helps their degrees and careers, but how about our area? Having been a resource for many projects, we spend a huge amount of unpaid time; helping give access to local people / areas, yet often do not receive a copy or credit.
It would be respectful to consult and work with community and local run organisations.
We welcome ask that you collaborate or credit local groups, and, add to our archive of films at the museum.
In terms of using the museum space, we would generally ask for donations, which vary depending on the organisation and intended use. A sliding scale exists, depending on your resources, is £50 an hour as equally all events are free to locals.
Our precious time is best spent preserving, recording and saving a community heritage against extinction.